It is indisputable that teachers and principals have the greatest impact on student learning. Unfortunately, the education system has hired and tenured thousands of ineffective teachers and principals, particularly in high-poverty urban and rural schools. As a consequence, these schools have low levels of student learning.
To remedy this problem, the nation is engaged in multiple activities to get effective teachers into all classrooms and effective principals into all schools through more “strategic management” of education talent. Strategic talent management is an approach that manages all human resource programs—recruitment, selection, placement, development, evaluation, tenure, promotion, dismissal, and compensation—around a set of effectiveness metrics that capture instructional practice and student-learning growth. The theory is that effective principals should manage schools in ways that facilitate teachers’ acquiring the instructional expertise they need to make them and the school effective—that is to say, successful in dramatically boosting student learning.
The issue of strategic talent management in education leapt onto the policy and practice agenda quite recently. Yet in a short time period, huge changes in policy and practice have occurred. From a set of disjointed policies and even-worse practices, a comprehensive and holistic view of strategic talent management in education is developing, supported by new and ambitious federal and state policies and rapidly changing local practices. Admittedly, policy design still needs significant calibration, and local implementation is far from complete. But the landscape of how teachers and principals—the education talent—are managed is dramatically changing. A once-haphazard mix of approaches is moving toward many more strategic systems that are designed to ensure that only effective teachers and principals are recruited, tenured, retained, and well-compensated—particularly in urban and poor rural communities.
This paper examines the evolving landscape of talent management in education: Talent management, or lack thereof, in education at the close of the 20th century; educational change that began at the dawn of the 21st century; rumblings of change that evolved into comprehensive new federal and state human-capital management policies and local practices; rumblings of change that coalesced into a foundation of change across the country and the new world of talent management; why the focus on talent evolved and quickly assumed such a prominent role in the nation’s education policy and practice agendas.